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Regulator fines Welsh firm £100k

'Simply unacceptable' premium rate scam

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A Welsh phone company has become the latest outfit to be fined £100,000 for ripping off phone customers with a dodgy prize scam.

Mobile Entertainment Group, which is based in North Wales, had the plug pulled on its service after premium rate regulator ICSTIS received ten complaints from punters who had received an unsolicited phone call using automatic calling equipment (ACE) telling them they had won either £1,000 cash or a £5,000 reward.

As in all these scams, all these lucky people had to do to collect their prize was to call a £1.50 a minute number.

"These services are simply unacceptable and further undermine trust in premium rate services," said ICSTIS director, George Kidd.

"These recorded messages are intrusive, misleading and almost certainly illegal. We have acted fast to stop this harm but we realise that we need to remain vigilant and use all our powers to stamp out this sort of behaviour," he said.

News of this latest fine comes as the regulator reports that the number of investigations it is carrying out are on the increase. Many concern direct marketing services which are either "misleading in nature and linked, at worst, to services of little or no apparent substance".

"As a result there was a marked increase in our use of the Emergency Procedure in the first half of 2005 as we dealt with spam marketing predominantly using Automatic Calling Equipment (ACE), and any residual dialler services found operating without permission or contrary to the terms of the permissions regime," it said.

Even though ICSTIS is involved in some 800 investigations about premium rate services this year, it also reports that it has seen a massive fall in the number of complaints about rogue diallers.

"By Autumn 2005 we had achieved a 99 per cent reduction in the enquiry and complaint levels linked to Internet dialler services. This was achieved through effective crisis management and partnership management with originating networks, Ofcom, DTI, trade bodies and others including the police," it said. ®

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